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Introduction / Eday and Papa 'Westray Grays

Eday Grays - John Gray

While John Gray was born in Westray, he was living in Eday by the time of the first census in 1841. He was married to Janet Scott in Eday on 4th March 1832 by the Rev Simpson. The birth and baptism of three sons are recorded in the Old Parish Records:

  • John Gray, who was baptised on 16th November 1834
  • William Gray, who was born on 10th July 1838 and baptised the following year on 30th June
  • James Gray who was born on 21st October 1841 and baptised on 9th January following. He died on 3rd April 1869 at the age of 29 and is interred with his brother William, and his family, in the Old Kirkyard in Eday.

John Gray and Janet Scott were at Swartmill at the time of the 1841 census. His occupation is given as fisherman and agricultural labourer. Swart Mill was near Cocklehouse where John’s mother, Barbara Allan lived.

Swart Mill, Eday
Age Born
John Gray 20 years Orkney
Jannet Gray 25 years Orkney
John Gray 6 years Orkney
William Gray 2 years Orkney

It should be noted that in the 1841 census, the ages of adults in the household were rounded down the nearest multiple of five years. This does give cause some problems due to the apparent differences in ages of John's wife between the census. John's age would also appear to be incorrect as he was baptised in 1807 and this 30 years might be expected.

John was at Cocklehouse, Eday in 1851 while his mother was at North Cocklehouse. In 1861, the respective houses were described as South Cocklehouse and North Cocklehouse. Certainly, they were very close if not adjacent.

In 1851, John is still described as a fisherman but also as a farmer with 2 acres. By 1861, when he was 52 years, he is described as a former fisherman and his son, John Gray, who was staying with him at South Cocklehouse is described as a fisherman. Like most families, they eked out a living both from the land and the sea.

Looking at the 1851 census, a problem arises with the differences in ages of John's wife compared with that in 1841:

Cocklehouse, Eday
Relation Age Born
John Gray Head 44 years Westray
Jean Gray Wife 49 years Eday
Peter Gray Head 6 years Eday

While care should be put on placing too much reliance on ages in some of the census, especially that of 1841, there does appear to be a significant difference.

It should be noted that there is also another son, Peter Gray, born c 1845. Peter can only be seen in Orkney at the time of the 1851 census and appears to have left between then and 1861. A record of his first marriage has been found, which is of interest in establishing his parentage. This marriage was to Margaret Taylor in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire on 8th June 1871, when Peter was aged 27 years. His parents are given as John Gray and Janet Reid not Janet Scott. The tie back to Orkney comes from the 1881 census, which states that Peter Gray, then aged 36 years, was born in Eday Orkney. This would have his birth as in 1845 and ties nicely with the 1851 Eday census information in which he is at Cocklehouse in Eday with his father and possibly his mother.

It would therefore appear that Janet Grey in the 1841 census is Janet Scott while the Jean Gray that in the 1851 census may be Janet Reid. Peter Gray's death certificate (8th February 1919) does not shed any light on this. While his father is given as John Gray, there is no entry for his mother. It would therefore appear that Peter's son, who provided the information, had no knowledge of his grandmother who had died so long before in Eday.

There are no further details of marriages for John Gray in the Eday Old Parish Records. Janet Reid died before the 1861 census:

South Cocklehouse, Eday
Relation Status Age Born
John Gray Head Widower 52 years Westray
William Gray Son Unmarried 22 years Eday

While there are a number of Janet Reids in Eday, it appears that she may have died before the introduction of the statutory registration of births, marriages and deaths in Scotland in 1855. Examination of the gravestones in the Old Kirkyard by the shore in Eday has also failed to provide any additional information. There is no record of deaths for Eday, and the neighbouring island of Pharay, in the Old Parish Records which were prior to 1855.

John Gray died after the 1861 census and it was hoped that his death record would shed some additional light on the matter. Unfortunately, it has added another level of confusion.

Name / rank or profession / marital status:
   John Gray, Fisherman, widower of Jane Miller or Eunson

It would appear that this is a third wife for John Gray and they were all called Janet or Jane or Jean. The implication is that John's third wife had previously been married to a Eunson. It is unclear whether the Jean Gray at Cocklehouse in 1851 was in fact Janet Reid or Jane Miller or Eunson. It has not been possible to date to establish the whereabouts of Jane Miller or Eunson at the time of the 1841 census.

A possible scenario might be that Jane Reid died in child birth in 1845 and John Gray had remarried by the time of the 1851 census. His third wife, Jane Miller or Eunson, had died prior to 1855. The Jean Gray in the 1851 census would therefore have been a step mother to Peter Gray but this is not brought out in the census which merely states the relationship to the head of the household. The other possible scenario is that it is it is Janet Reid who is at Cocklehouse in 1851 and that she died, John remarried and that his third wife died prior to 1855. This seems less likely but there is no conclusive evidence.

To summarise, it appears that John Gray married three times:

  • Janet Scott on 4th March 1832
  • Janet Reid
  • Jane Miller or Eunson

He had four children:

  • James Gray b. 1841
To Janet Reid -

John Gray died at 4.00am on 26th July 1864 at South Cocklehouse, Eday. The cause of death was a "premature decay of nature" lasting some two and a half years. He was 57 years old when he died. The information was supplied to the registrar by his son, James Gray.

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